Last week while walking along the path in Explore the Wild, I stepped off into the grass to have a closer look at the Wetlands, the water’s edge. As my foot hit the grass half a dozen tiny creatures leapt for their lives. Hmm.
Looking closer I realized they were frogs, Pickerel Frogs and Spring Peepers. A day or two before, I had come across a miniature toad hopping across the path.
During February, March, and into April, Spring Peepers, Pickerel Frogs, and American Toads come down to the water to breed. What I was seeing in the grass and on the path were the results of that effort, the offspring of those frogs and toads. These little amphibians had just morphed into their adult forms, although miniature versions of the same, and were leaving the water to spend the summer in the trees, shrubs, leaf litter, or under logs in the surrounding forest and meadows.
Towards the end of the week I hooked up with Summer Camp Leader Wayne and his fine group of summer campers for a prescheduled nature hike around the Wild. We typically focus our weekly hikes around whatever is current at the time, what flowers are in bloom, what insects are emerging, the birds, whatever is most in evidence at the time. I decided that we’d look for mini frogs and toads. I wasn’t sure if they’d still be in the area, as often happens in nature one day there’s an abundance of something, the next day they, whoever they may be, are gone.
The kids leaped to the task, wading through the short grass alongside the path looking for things that hop, skip, or jump. They didn’t come up empty handed, seems every camper had a frog or toad in their cupped hands.
On this day there were many more peepers than pickerel frogs or toads (here today, gone tomorrow) but no matter the species, there were bunches of them. Here’s some photos of the fun.
This week too, I lead another group of campers around the Wild on Wednesday (6/19). We searched for the tiny amphibians in the grass but unfortunately found none. We did, however, find many other exciting creatures including a tadpole that was in the process of becoming a frog, a Bullfrog.
Unlike the Pickerel Frogs, Spring Peepers and American Toads who only come to water to breed (they need water in which to lay eggs), Bullfrogs spend their entire lives in the water. They obviously live in water as eggs and tadpoles, but also remain in or close to the water as adults. Most frogs and toads in our area leave the water once they become adults, only returning for a brief period each year to breed.
The next wave of amphibs emerging from the Wetlands should be in July and August when we start seeing Eastern Narrowmouth Toads, Green Tree Frogs, and Gray Tree Frogs morphing into adulthood, they’re breeding now.
We’ve had ample rain this spring so I’m looking forward to a productive tree frog season. I’ll be keeping an eye out later in the summer for juveniles of both the green and gray variety of tree frogs, as well as their close relatives the narrowmouth toads, to come hopping out of the water for the first time in their lives. I’ll be there waiting when they become frogs and toads!
PS: I don’t know what it is about frogs and toads, but most kids, including myself, get very excited at the mere sight them.
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!